Fighting The Scammers
When I was little, my parents ran a business out of our house. Since it was the 70s, most business came in through the telephone. From about the time I could speak, I was tasked with putting down my crayons, jumping away from my coloring book, and diving toward any any ringing phone in an attempt to answer it in as business-like voice as I could manage, even before I started elementary school.
To this day I have a hard time not answering any phone.
Nowadays most of my telephone calls are from telemarketers. I’m on the national do not call registry, so I assume that no legitimate charities call me. I also assume that everyone who calls me is a scammer looking for a victim.
You’ve probably gotten a number of calls from my favorite telemarketing scammers, the ones who claim they are calling to fix your computer. They are not. They are calling to cheat you out of dollars or pounds, as the same scam is also targeted towards UK customers. A 2014 article in Computer World magazine about a lawsuit filed by Microsoft claimed that a third of those contacted fell for the ruse. The deception isn’t new, and was investigated by The Guardian newspaper in England in 2010. “Investigators who have spoken to the Guardian on condition of anonymity say that one man, based in the city of Kota in Rajasthan, is behind the centres running the scams.”
Like a lot of people, I’ve had a number of time wasting conversations with the “M’am, there is something wrong with your computer” scammers– considering it a public service to keep these nogoodnicks away from a more vulnerable target.
Lately I’ve grown bored with just keeping the scammers in a holding pattern. Now I’ve taken to trying to change the hearts and minds of the telemarketers who choose to call and lie to me.
Having grown up Baptist, with its tradition of witnessing to unbelievers, I have a lot of experience trying to convince people to do what is best for them. Rather than trying to convert these scammers to religion, I try to make them see the error of calling up people and lying to them in an attempt to get money out of the gullible.
Recently I had a conversation with one of these scammers. Having talked to them long enough, I know that they can’t easily hang up on you, and I turn that to my advantage.
I’ve started by asking the scammers to quickly acknowledge what we both know; that they are calling from outside the US, and that they are lying to me about fixing my computer.
Then I quickly go for the reasons behind why they have this job, and how they might improve their lives and the world by improving their skill sets. A lot of the scammers are ready to really talk.
So for the “Computer tech” people, I spend a lot of time asking about why they have taken this job, and why they don’t improve their skill sets and get actual computer repair and technical support jobs? One of the young men I talked to said that “There aren’t so many good jobs.” To which I responded that there seem to be plenty of H-1B visa’s in America for people with actual computer skills. Maybe he could try learning something about C++, Java, Drupal or Ruby on Rails?
Other times I go the religious route. I ask if wouldn’t their ancestors be ashamed of what they are doing? I’ve gotten at least one to admit to being Hindu—then I realized that I know nothing of the place of lying in Hindu religious beliefs. I also realized that I should have studied more for that “World Religions” class I took as part of my undergraduate degree in Philosophy at The University of Texas!
“Ma’am, I’m just lying to people, not killing them,” I had one “computer repair” telescammer with a non-American accent tell me. That’s still a pretty bad thing to be doing.
I know I’m not really saving the world by trying to convince each fraud minded caller that what they are doing is wrong, but I figure it can’t hurt. It’s a lot easier than going to Africa to do missionary work like my cousin did.